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Guide to Sarasota for Families

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Originally named Zara Zote by the Spanish, Sarasota, Florida offers much more than gorgeous beaches and breathtaking sunsets — although those are pretty important too! As one of Florida’s primary Gulf Coast cities, Sarasota revels in an abundant blend of cultural activities, golf options, boating and water outings, fine dining, and shopping galore, for every member of the family.

Good for
  • Family
  • Shopping Fanatic
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover
  • Foodie
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Beach Goer

9 Places

3 City Tips

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Map

9 Places

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Aquariums

Sarasota Ski-A-Rees Water Ski Show

Performances

The Children's Garden

Gardens

Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary

Nature & Wildlife Areas, Zoos

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Gardens, Zoos

Stardust Skate Center

Game & Entertainment Centres

Lido Beach

Equipment Hire

Myakka River State Park

Nature & Wildlife Areas

Circus Sarasota

Lessons & Workshops, Performances

Melanie F's City Tips

  • Hop aboard the Scenic Loop Trolley to see some of Sarasota's main attractions.
  • There's a reason they call Florida the sunshine state — be sure to wear sunscreen.
  • Warm and humid with hot summers, bring light, comfortable clothing.
  • Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
    Aquariums
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    Although you might not want to run into some of these critters while enjoying the beach, the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is the perfect place to become acquainted with the wonderful creatures of the sea. Kids of all ages will love seeing sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and 100 plus additional species of marine life.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Open from 10am to 5pm daily, all year-round including all holidays.
    • Admission for children three or younger is free.
    • Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more.
    • Just minutes away from downtown Sarasota.
    • Lot parking is available.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #10 of 128 things to do in Sarasota
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Smaller but plenty to see, nice exhibits 19/09/2020
    • Excellent 17/09/2020
    • Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
    Address:
    1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
    Sarasota, FL 34236-1004
    Phone:
    +1 941-388-4441
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Sarasota Ski-A-Rees Water Ski Show
    Performances
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    Whether you're looking to learn how to water ski, or simply want to watch a show, Sarasota Ski-A-Rees is the place to do both. For adults and kids alike who are interested in water skiing and water safety, come check out the group who's been making waves on the the Sarasota Bay for almost 60 years now.

    Good for
    • Beach Goer
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Ski-A-Rees shows are free — check the calendar on the website for the schedule.
    • Bleacher seats are available for shows, or you can bring your own lawn chair.
    • Free parking is available.
    • Concession stands are available for snack and drink purchases.
    • Bring sunscreen.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 24 Concerts & Shows in Sarasota
    • Free Sunday Show! 18/02/2020
    • Awesome free waterski extravaganza 03/02/2020
    • Sarasota Ski-A-Rees Water Ski Show
    Address:
    1602 Ken Thompson Pkwy
    Sarasota, FL 34236-1004
    Phone:
    +1 941-388-1666
    Other:
  • The Children's Garden
    Gardens
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    If you're looking to get the kids to disconnect from their phones and handheld electronics for a while, then The Children's Garden is the place to do just that. Located in a two acre garden, the Children's Garden includes an array of outdoor play areas, like the Butterfly Garden and the Monster Garden, classes in nature, gardening, and art; playground structures, tree-houses, a pirate ship, and so much more that even adults will wish they were kids again.

    Good for
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Closed on Mondays.
    • Located just north of downtown Sarasota.
    • Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.
    • Street and lot parking are both available.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #51 of 128 things to do in Sarasota
    • Great find! 27/02/2020
    • Overrated, overcharged 22/10/2019
    • The Children's Garden
    Address:
    1670 10th Way
    Sarasota, FL 34236-4111
    Phone:
    +1 941-330-1711
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary
    Nature & Wildlife Areas, Zoos
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    Lions and tigers and bears — oh, and primates, birds, and tortoises too! The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary was founded by Kay Rosaire who began rescuing big cats in 1987. With more than 35 big cats that now call this sanctuary their home, they take in any animal that needs a home, and offer educational programs to children and adults alike.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Open Wednesday through Sunday from 12pm to 4pm.
    • An educational demo is shown at 2pm.
    • Animal sponsorships are available.
    • A gift shop is located in the sanctuary.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #20 of 128 things to do in Sarasota
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great Family Fun 09/09/2020
    • Great place 06/07/2020
    • Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary
    Address:
    7101 Palmer Blvd
    Sarasota, FL 34240-9407
    Phone:
    +1 941-371-6377
    Price range:
    US$20 - US$20
    Hours:
    Fri - Sun
    12:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    Other:
  • Sarasota Jungle Gardens
    Gardens, Zoos
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    One of the most popular Sarasota tourist attractions since the 1930's, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens are located on a sprawling ten-acre area of tropical land. Bring the kids to learn about some of the garden's 150-plus native and exotic animals — critters like parrots, primates, small mammals, snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, and many more.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Florida teachers and kids under three get in free.
    • Annual passes are available for purchase.
    • Group rates are available for 10 or more.
    • A café and gift shop are both located on the premises.
    • Wear comfortable walking shoes.
    • Open 10am to 5pm December through August; closed Mondays and Tuesdays September 15 through November 30, along with Christmas and Thanksgiving.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #33 of 128 things to do in Sarasota
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Dont waste your money 19/09/2020
    • Flamingo’s! 25/08/2020
    • Sarasota Jungle Gardens
    Address:
    3701 Bay Shore Rd
    Right Next To The Water
    Sarasota, FL 34234-5211
    Phone:
    +1 941-355-5305
    Other:
  • Stardust Skate Center
    Game & Entertainment Centres
    Melanie F Says:

    After a day laying around in the bright Florida sun, there's nothing better than skating, to shake that sand off of yourself and the kids! Have fun while getting a great workout in the futuristic looking Stardust Skate Center. Kids and adults alike will feel like rock stars amid a wild light show and array of great music.

    Good for
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Family
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • Skating lessons are available for all ages and skill levels.
    • Hours vary — call ahead.
    • Skate rental is available.
    • Bring some glow sticks for extra fun.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #0 of 0 things to do in Sarasota
    • Closed as of April 21 23/04/2018
    • Skating never gets old – this place is great. 26/02/2018
    • Stardust Skate Center
    Address:
    2571 12th St
    Sarasota, FL 34237-2907
    Phone:
    +1 941-365-6888
    Price range:
    US$15 - US$15
    Hours:
    Tue
    6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
    Fri
    7:30 PM - 10:00 PM
    Sat - Sun
    1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
    Sat
    4:30 PM - 7:00 PM
  • Lido Beach
    Equipment Hire
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    Sarasota certainly has an array of fabulous beaches to choose from, and one of the favorites of many families is Lido Beach. Located on Lido Key, this stunning white-sand beach is at the ready to comply with sand castle architects and sun bathing beauties alike.

    Good for
    • Beach Goer
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Free parking available.
    • Don't forget the sunscreen.
    • Stay here for an amazing sunset!
    • To avoid the crowds visit on weekdays.
    • Concession and gift shops, restrooms, picnic tables, and a pool are all available.
    • Bring a camera.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #18 of 161 Outdoor Activities in Sarasota
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Paradise with my sisters♡ 04/09/2020
    • Love this resort. Best customer service too! 22/08/2020
    • Lido Beach
    Address:
    Ben Franklin Drive
    Lido Key
    Sarasota, FL
    Phone:
    +1 941-306-6653
    Other:
  • Myakka River State Park
    Nature & Wildlife Areas
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    One of the oldest state parks in all of Florida, Myakka River State Park, also happens to be one of the biggest, taking up about 37,000 acres. Whether you're interested in biking, hiking, fishing, canoeing, or just checking out the wildlife, you can do it all here. Stay for a few hours, or for a few days, in your own tent or one of the cabins on site, and get back in touch with nature.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Wildlife exhibits and informative films are on display in the visitor center.
    • Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.
    • A restaurant, ice cream parlor, and gift shop are all available.
    • Bring a camera.
    • Don't forget the sunscreen and bug repellent.
    • Call ahead for cabin availability.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 128 things to do in Sarasota
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • very educational and enjoyed seeing the gators birds and even deer!! 31/08/2020
    • Fun Getaway 18/08/2020
    • Myakka River State Park
    Address:
    13208 State Road 72
    Sarasota, FL 34241-9546
    Phone:
    +1 941-361-6511
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 6:30 PM
    Other:
  • Circus Sarasota
    Lessons & Workshops, Performances
    See more photos
    Melanie F Says:

    One of the best ways to wow the kids while on vacation in Sarasota is by taking them to the circus! Circus Sarasota's performances are world famous; they know exactly how to put on the best version of the greatest show on Earth!

    Good for
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Call the box office for ticket information.
    • Circus Summer Camp is offered for children ages 6-15.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 26 Classes & Workshops in Sarasota
    • Spectacular 15/03/2020
    • Buy the cheap seats 28/02/2020
    • Circus Sarasota
    Address:
    140 University Town Center Dr
    Sarasota, FL Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park behind the Mall at UTC
    Sarasota, FL 34243-4118
    Phone:
    +1 941-355-9335
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
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